Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections and to get his point across, referenced a quote by a U.S. president.
The president spoke at the Arctic forum at Archangelsk, Russia, the site of the failed 1918 U.S. invasion of the Soviet Union. He asserted his claim when he was bluntly asked if any evidence will be found that Russia influenced the campaign.
“Ronald Reagan, once debating about taxes and addressing the Americans, said, ‘Watch my lips,’” the Russian despot said, while pointing to his mouth. “Watch my lips. No!”
The quote was not, in fact, said by Reagan but by George H.W. Bush during the 1988 Republican National Convention when he told Americans, “Read ly lips: No new taxes.” (A statement, incidentally, that proved untrue.)
Russia has repeatedly denied the assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies asserting that the Kremlin was behind the cyberattacks on Democrats during the presidential run and that Russia tampered with the elections to give Donald Trump a better chance to win against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“All those things are fictional, illusory and provocations, lies,” Putin continued. “All these are used for domestic American political agendas.”
“We said on numerous occasions and I reiterate that we are confident … And know for sure that opinion polls in the Unites States show that very many people are … friendly towards the Russian Federation and I'd like to tell these people that we perceive and regard the United States as a great power with which we want to establish good partnership relations,” the president added.
However, Putin’s words are at odds with the claims being made by both the Republican and Democratic parties.
The FBI started the investigation over the allegations months before the elections but it was only earlier this month that FBI director James Comey confirmed they were probing Moscow’s link with Trump’s campaign.
"We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence report said.
Despite that, Putin has implied a double standard exists between how the U.S. and Russia treat each other’s ambassadors. The United States diplomats are allowed to interact freely with representatives of major Russian organizations and government, Putin said, but the Russian ambassadors are given no such leeway.
“The contacts of our ambassador to the U.S. are limited, and there is negative response and reaction to any possible meeting of his. But he’s there in order to be able to maintain contacts with people: the political elites, with Senate and Congress, with the government administration. Otherwise, why had he come there?” said Putin.
Meanwhile, Trump has also denied colluding with Russia — even though many members of his campaign and administration have had questionable meetings and ties with Russian representatives — and said the Democratic party has made up the charges “as an excuse for running a terrible campaign.”
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Sergei Karpukhin